23 minerals listed as supply risks to US defense, manufacturing

Military Technology
dysprosium

Ultrapure dysprosium dendrites. (Wikimedia Commons)

MYSTERY WIRE — A new study published by Science Advances identifies the minerals that pose the greatest risks to US manufacturers if supplies are interrupted. Many of those minerals are critical to national defense.

You might not have any idea what these minerals are used for, but the supplies are threatened by several factors — some beyond the control of the businesses that rely on them the most. The minerals are important to consumer electronics, but extend far beyond that, playing important roles in clean energy solutions. Entire industries could collapse if the supplies dry up.

READ: U.S. Army will fund rare earths plant for weapons development

A military investment by the Army into commercial-scale rare earths production would be the first since World War II’s Manhattan Project, which built the first atomic bomb.

Two of the top 3 minerals on the list — dysprosium and neodymium — are used to forge the powerful magnets inside iPhone speakers, electric vehicle motors, and wind turbines. Yttrium is used in digital displays and to strengthen aluminium and magnesium alloys. Cobalt is widely used in battery technology for phones and electric cars.

The ranked list looks like this:

  1. Dysprosium
  2. Yttrium
  3. Neodymium
  4. Cobalt
  5. Lanthanum
  6. Cerium
  7. Graphite
  8. Bismuth
  9. Aluminum
  10. Antimony
  11. Tantalum
  12. Praseodymium
  13. Tungsten
  14. Rhodium
  15. Ruthenium
  16. Magnesium
  17. Platinum
  18. Niobium
  19. Gallium
  20. Palladium
  21. Iridium
  22. Titanium
  23. Germanium

Among the biggest threats to supply: China is the leading producer of 16 of the 23 minerals listed. China produced 78 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals in 2018, according to researchers at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

READ: The US could run out of metals that are crucial to tech

Built from a larger list identified by the United States Geological Survey, the study applies a formula that takes into account factors of disruption potential, trade exposure and economic vulnerability. The formula used to calculate the supply risk (SR):

Disruption potential (DR), Trade exposure (TE), Economic vulnerability (EV)

For a deep analysis of the risks to these minerals and a thorough explanation of the formula:

READ: Evaluating the mineral commodity supply risk of the U.S. manufacturing sector

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